Chelsea Football Club (also known as The Blues or previously The Pensioners) are an English professional football club based in west London. Founded in 1905, they play in the Premier League and have spent most of their history in the top tier in English football. They have had two broad periods of success, one during the 1960s and early 1970s, and the second from the late 1990s to the present day. Chelsea have won three league titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two UEFA Cup Winners' Cups.
Chelsea's home is the 42,055 capacity Stamford Bridge football stadium in Fulham, West London, where they have played since their foundation. Despite their name, the club are based just outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In 2003, the club was bought by Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich.The club's traditional kit colours are royal blue shirts and shorts with white socks. Their traditional crest is a ceremonial blue lion holding a staff; a modified version of this was adopted in 2005
|Full name||Chelsea Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Pensioners |
|Founded||14 March 1905|
|Ground||Stamford Bridge |
|2006–07||Premier League, 2nd|
- For more details on this topic, see History of Chelsea F.C.
Chelsea were founded on 14 March 1905 at The Rising Sun pub (now The Butcher's Hook), opposite the present-day main entrance to the ground on Fulham Road, and were elected to the Football League shortly afterwards. The club's early years saw little success; the closest they came to winning a major trophy was reaching the FA Cup final in 1915, where they lost to Sheffield United. Chelsea gained a reputation for signing big-name players and for being entertainers, but made little impact on the English game in the inter-war years.
Former England centre-forward Ted Drake became manager in 1952 and proceeded to modernise the club. He removed the club's Chelsea pensioner crest, improved the youth set-up and training regime, rebuilt the side, and led Chelsea to their first major trophy success – the League championship – in 1954–55. The following season saw UEFA create the European Champions' Cup, but after objections from The Football League and the FA Chelsea were persuaded to withdraw from the competition before it started.
The 1960s saw the emergence of a talented young Chelsea side under manager Tommy Docherty. They challenged for honours throughout the decade, and endured several near-misses. They were on course for a treble of League, FA Cup and League Cup going into the final stages of the 1964–65 season, winning the League Cup but faltering late on in the other two. In three seasons the side were beaten in three major semi-finals and were FA Cup runners-up. In 1970 Chelsea were FA Cup winners, beating Leeds United 2–1 in a final replay. Chelsea took their first European honour, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph, the following year, with another replayed win, this time over Real Madrid in Athens.
The late 1970s and the 1980s were a turbulent period for Chelsea. An ambitious redevelopment of Stamford Bridge threatened the financial stability of the club, star players were sold and the team were relegated. Further problems were caused by a notorious hooligan element among the support, which was to plague the club throughout the decade. Chelsea were, at the nadir of their fortunes, acquired by Ken Bates for the nominal sum of £1, although by now the Stamford Bridge freehold had been sold to property developers, meaning the club faced losing their home. On the pitch, the team had fared little better, coming close to relegation to the Third Division for the first time, but in 1983 manager John Neal put together an impressive new team for minimal outlay. Chelsea won the Second Division title in 1983–84 and established themselves in the top division, before being relegated again in 1988. The club bounced back immediately by winning the Second Division championship in 1988–89.
After a long-running legal battle, Bates reunited the stadium freehold with the club in 1992 by doing a deal with the banks of the property developers, who had been bankrupted by a market crash. Chelsea's form in the new Premier League was unconvincing, although they did reach the FA Cup final in 1994. It was not until the appointment of former European Footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1996 that their fortunes changed. He added several top-class international players to the side, particularly Gianfranco Zola, as the club won the FA Cup in 1997 and established themselves as one of England's top sides again. Gullit was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, who led the team to victory in the League Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000 and the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2000. Vialli was sacked in favour of another Italian, Claudio Ranieri, who guided Chelsea to the 2002 FA Cup final and Champions League qualification in 2002–03.
In June 2003, Bates sold Chelsea to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for £140 million, completing what was then the biggest-ever sale of an English football club. Owing to Abramovich's Russian heritage, the club were soon popularly dubbed "Chelski" in the British media. Over £100 million was spent on new players, but Ranieri was unable to deliver any trophies, so he was replaced by successful Portuguese coach José Mourinho, who had just guided FC Porto to victory in the UEFA Champions League.
In 2005, Chelsea's centenary year, the club became Premiership champions in a record-breaking season (most clean sheets, fewest goals conceded, most victories, most points earned), League Cup winners with a 3–2 win over Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium and reached the Champions League semi-finals. The following year, they were again League Champions, equalling their own Premiership record of 29 wins set the previous season. They also became the fifth team to win back-to-back championships since the Second World War and the first London club to do so since Arsenal in 1933–34. In 2007, Chelsea won the FA Cup and League Cup, but finished runners-up to Manchester United in the Premier League. On 20 September 2007, manager José Mourinho parted company with Chelsea by mutual consent and was replaced by Director of Football Avram Grant.
- For more details on this topic, see Stamford Bridge (stadium).
Chelsea have only ever had one home ground, Stamford Bridge, where they have played since foundation. It was officially opened on 28 April 1877. For the first 28 years of its existence it was used almost exclusively by the London Athletics Club as an arena for athletics meetings and not at all for football. In 1904 the ground was acquired by businessman Gus Mears and his brother, J T Mears, who had previously acquired additional land (formerly a large market garden) with the aim of staging football matches on the now 12.5 acre (51,000 m²) site.
Stamford Bridge was designed for the Mears family by the noted football architect Archibald Leitch. They offered the stadium to Fulham Football Club, but the offer was turned down. As a consequence, the owners decided to form their own football club to occupy their new ground. Most football clubs were founded first, and then sought grounds in which to play, but Chelsea were founded for Stamford Bridge. Since there was already a football club named Fulham in the borough, the founders decided to adopt the name of the adjacent borough of Chelsea for the new club, having rejected names such as Kensington FC, Stamford Bridge FC and London FC.
Starting with an open bowl-like design and one covered terrace, Stamford Bridge had an original capacity of around 100,000. The early 1930s saw the construction of a terrace on the southern part of the ground with a roof that covered around one fifth of the stand. It eventually became known as the "Shed End", the home of Chelsea's most loyal and vocal supporters, particularly during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The exact origins of the name are unclear, but the fact that the roof looked like a corrugated iron shed roof played a part.
During the late 1960s and early 70s, the club's owners embarked on a modernisation of Stamford Bridge with plans for a 50,000 all-seater stadium. Work began on the East Stand in the early 1970s but the cost almost brought the club to its knees, and the freehold was sold to property developers. Following a long legal battle, it was not until the mid-1990s that Chelsea's future at the stadium was secured and renovation work resumed. The north, west and southern parts of the ground were converted into all-seater stands and moved closer to the pitch, a process completed by 2001.
The Stamford Bridge pitch, the freehold, the turnstiles and Chelsea's naming rights are now owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, a non-profit organisation in which fans are the shareholders. The CPO was created to ensure the stadium could never again be sold to developers. It also means that if someone tries to move the football club to a new stadium they could not use the Chelsea FC name.
The club plans to increase its capacity to over 50,000. Owing to its location in a built-up part of London on a main road and next to two railway lines, fans can only enter the stadium through the Fulham Road entrance, which places severe constraints on expansion due to health and safety regulations. As a result, Chelsea have been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge to sites including the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Battersea Power Station and the Chelsea Barracks. However, the club have reiterated their desire to keep Chelsea at their current home.
Since the club's foundation, Chelsea have had four main crests, though all underwent minor variations. In 1905, Chelsea adopted as their first crest the image of a Chelsea pensioner, which obviously contributed to the "pensioner" nickname, and remained for the next half-century, though it never appeared on the shirts. As part of Ted Drake's modernisation of the club from 1952 onwards, he insisted that the pensioner badge be removed from the match day programme in order to change the club's image and that a new crest be adopted. As a stop-gap, a temporary emblem comprising simply the initials C.F.C. was adopted for one year. In 1953, Chelsea's crest was changed to an upright blue lion looking backwards and holding a staff, which was to endure for the next three decades.
This crest was based on elements in the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea with the "lion rampant regardant" taken from the arms of then club president Viscount Chelsea and the staff from the Abbots of Westminster, former Lords of the Manor of Chelsea. It also featured three red roses, to represent England, and two footballs. This was the first club badge to appear on shirts, since the policy of putting the crest on the shirts was only adopted in the early 1960s.
In 1986, with new owners now at the club, Chelsea's crest was changed again as part of another attempt to modernise and to capitalise on new marketing opportunities. The new badge featured a more naturalistic non-heraldic lion, yellow and not blue, standing over the C.F.C. initials. It lasted for the next 19 years, with some modifications such as the use of different colours. With new ownership, and the club's centenary approaching, combined with demands from fans for the club's traditional badge to be restored, it was decided that the crest should be changed again in 2004. The new crest was officially adopted for the start of the 2005–06 season and marks a return to the older design of the blue heraldic lion holding a staff. As with previous crests, this one has appeared in various colours, including white and gold.
|Chelsea's first home colours, used from 1905 until c.1912.|
Chelsea have always worn blue shirts, although they initially adopted a lighter shade than the current version, and unlike today wore white shorts and dark blue socks. The lighter blue was taken from the racing colours of then club president, Earl Cadogan. The light blue shirts were short-lived, however, and replaced by a royal blue version in around 1912. When Tommy Docherty became manager in the early 1960s he changed the kit again, adding blue shorts (which have remained ever since) and white socks, believing it made the club's colours more distinctive, since no other major side used that combination; this kit was first worn during the 1964–65 season.
Chelsea's traditional away colours are all yellow or all white with blue trim, but, as with most teams, they have had some more unusual ones. The first away strip consisted of black and white stripes and for one game in the 1960s the team wore Inter Milan-style blue and black stripes, again at Docherty's behest. Other memorable away kits include a mint green strip in the 1980s, a red and white checked one in the early 90s and a graphite and tangerine addition in the mid-1990s.
|Chelsea's third kit for the 07/08 season.|
The 2007/2008 Chelsea away strip consists of an 'electric yellow' shirt with thick black lines forming separate panels of the shirt. The adidas three stripes are black, and run down the arms. It is worn with black shorts and black socks, but in the case of further clashes it is worn with "electric yellow" shorts and/or socks. The crest on the shirt is in "electric yellow" and black to go with the rest of the kit, instead of the usual blue, white, red and gold. For the 07/08 season, there is also a third kit, which is all white with blue and black trim.
Chelsea's kit is currently manufactured by Adidas, which is contracted to supply the club's kit from 2006 to 2011. Their previous kit manufacturer was Umbro. Chelsea's first shirt sponsor was Gulf Air, agreed midway through the 1983–84 season. Following that, the club were sponsored by Grange Farms, Bai Lin tea and Italian company Simod before a long-term deal was signed with computer manufacturer Commodore International in 1989; Amiga, an off-shoot of Commodore, also appeared on the shirts. Chelsea were subsequently sponsored by Coors beer (1995–97), Autoglass (1997–2001) and Emirates Airline (2001–05). Chelsea's current shirt sponsor is Samsung Mobile.
Chelsea have the fifth highest average all-time attendance in English football and regularly attract over 40,000 fans to Stamford Bridge; they were the fifth best-supported Premiership team in the 2005–06 season, with an average gate of 41,870. Chelsea's traditional fanbase comes from working-class parts of West London, such as Hammersmith and Battersea, from wealthier areas like Chelsea and Kensington, and from the Home Counties. In addition to the standard football chants, Chelsea fans sing songs like "Carefree", "Blue is the Colour", "We all follow the Chelsea" (to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory), "Ten Men Went to Mow", "Zigga Zagga", "Hello! Hello!" and the celebratory "Celery", with the latter often resulting in fans ritually throwing celery.
Chelsea do not have a traditional rivalry, in the manner that Liverpool and Everton, or Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur do. The club's nearest neighbours are Fulham, but they are not seen as big rivals by Chelsea fans, because the clubs have spent most of the last 40 years in separate divisions. A 2004 survey by Planetfootball.com found that Chelsea fans consider their main rivalries to be with (in order): Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. Additionally, a strong rivalry with Leeds United dates back to several heated and controversial matches in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the FA Cup final in 1970. A more recent rivalry has grown with Liverpool following several clashes in cup competitions.
During the 1970s and 1980s in particular, Chelsea supporters were long associated with football hooliganism. The club's "football firm", originally the Chelsea Shed Boys, now known as the Chelsea Headhunters, were nationally notorious for violent acts against hooligans from other teams, such as West Ham United's Inter City Firm and Millwall's Bushwhackers, both during and after matches. The increase in hooliganism in the 1980s led chairman Ken Bates to propose an electric fence to deter them from invading the pitch; the proposal was rejected by the GLC. Chelsea's hooligan element were revealed to have links with neo-nazi groups such as Combat 18, and other far-right or racist organisations including the British National Party. Since the 1990s there has been a marked decline in crowd trouble at matches, as a result of stricter policing, CCTV in grounds and the advent of all-seater stadia.
- For more details on this topic, see Chelsea F.C. statistics.
Chelsea's highest appearance-maker is ex-captain Ron Harris, who played in 795 first-class games for the club between 1961 and 1980. This record is unlikely to be broken in the near future; Chelsea's current highest appearance-maker is Frank Lampard with 366. The record for a Chelsea goalkeeper is held by Harris's contemporary, Peter Bonetti, who made 729 appearances (1959–79). With 116 caps (67 while at the club), Marcel Desailly of France is Chelsea's most capped international player.
Bobby Tambling is Chelsea's all-time top goalscorer, with 202 goals in 370 games (1959–70). Seven other players have also scored over 100 goals for Chelsea: George Hilsdon (1906–12), George Mills (1929–39), Roy Bentley (1948–56), Jimmy Greaves (1957–61), Peter Osgood (1964–74 & 1978–79), Kerry Dixon (1983–92), and Frank Lampard (2001–). With 193 goals, Dixon is the only player in the club's recent history to have come close to matching Tambling's record. Greaves holds the record for the most goals scored in one season (43 in 1960–61). Lampard is the top scorer currently at the club.
Officially, Chelsea's highest home attendance is 82,905 for a First Division match against Arsenal on 12 October 1935. However, an estimated crowd of over 100,000 attended a friendly match against Soviet team Dynamo Moscow on 13 November 1945. The modernisation of Stamford Bridge during the 1990s and the introduction of all-seater stands mean that neither record will be broken for the foreseeable future. The current legal capacity of Stamford Bridge is 42,055.
Chelsea hold numerous records in English and European football. They hold the record for the highest points total for a league season (95), the fewest goals conceded during a league season (15), the most consecutive clean sheets during a league season (10), the highest number of Premier League victories in a season (29), the highest number of clean sheets overall in a Premier League season (25) (all set during the 2004–05 season), and the most consecutive clean sheets from the start of a league season (6) (2005–06).
The club's 21–0 aggregate victory over Jeunesse Hautcharage in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 remains a record in European competition. Chelsea may also hold the British transfer record, but the fee for Andriy Shevchenko, estimated at around £30m, remains unconfirmed. Roberto Di Matteo holds the record for fastest goal in an FA Cup final at Wembley, which came 42 seconds into Chelsea's win over Middlesbrough in 1997. Chelsea hold the record for the longest streak of unbeaten matches at home in the English top-flight. They secured the record on 12 August 2007, beating the previous run of 63 matches set by Liverpool between 1978 and 1980. The record is ongoing, and currently stands at 81 matches.
Chelsea have recorded several "firsts" in English football. Along with Arsenal, they were the first club to play with shirt numbers on 25 August 1928 in their match against Swansea Town. Chelsea were the first English side to travel by aeroplane to a domestic away match, when they visited Newcastle United on 19 April 1957, and the first First Division side to play a match on a Sunday, when they faced Stoke City on 27 January 1974. On 26 December 1999, Chelsea became the first British side to field an entirely foreign (non-UK) starting line-up in a Premier League match against Southampton. On 19 May 2007, they became the first team to win the FA Cup at the new Wembley Stadium, having also been the last to win it at the old Wembley.